Dressing Downton: Season 4 Episode 6

uktv-downton-abbey-s04-e06-10We’re getting close to the end of the season, which means a lot of what can be said about the costumes has been said and I’m at risk of sounding like a broken record. Still, there were a few things I noticed this week.

Upstairs

Can we talk about the colour blue for a bit?

I noted, back in the episode where Dame Nellie performed, that blue was sort of becoming Cora’s signature colour, especially in the evening, and that it linked her with Dame Nellie herself, whom she supported. Interestingly, it’s also a very popular choice with young Rose, who wears it quite a lot. And Rose, as we know, is very connected with a performer herself: Jack Ross.

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0032For instance, this is what she’s wearing in the scene where she tells Cora she’s got a ‘surprise’ for Robert and then begs Hughes to help her conceal Jack and his band. And later, when Jack actually shows up, she’s wearing this:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0999Quite the kicky dress, and it stands out even more because the other Crawley ladies are mostly a united front in red:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_1006That midnight blue really pops against those reds. And though Jack’s wearing evening clothes in this particular scene, when he’s performing, his street clothes have hints of blue in them as well:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0855Grey-blue overcoat, and a blue stripe in both the tie and the scarf. Connections.

But blue also shows up in scenes where there’s a lot of conflict this season. The scene with Cora sticking up for Dame Nellie, for instance. And, in this episode, the scene where Isobel rather childishly drags Clarkson along to confront Violet over the gardener:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0488 normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0489This is a scene awash in shades of blue, from Violet’s rich midnight to Clarkson’s and Isobel’s much more subdued grey-blue. Clarkson and Isobel, who are constantly paired together thanks to their mutual interests in medicine and general do-gooding, are practically matching, while Violet, who emerges from the scene triumphant, not only pops, but is once again clearly the wealthy aristocrat to their middle-class folk.

When Blake arrives at Downton, again the scene is full of blue:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0755 normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0763 normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0776Cora’s dress, Edith’s dress, Blake’s suit and tie–blue, blue, blue. And Mary lights into him almost immediately. Shades of her relationship with Matthew, no?

Ok, let’s move on to Edith, poor dear.

Once again, life is shitting on her, for no discernable reason other than that Julian Fellowes just really hates this character. She’s overwhelmed by worry on several fronts, so it’s no wonder she’s being shot like this:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0192A small figure, almost blending into a massive room. Part of what’s overwhelming her, as she faces the prospect of an illegitimate child, are the constraints and expectations of an aristocratic girl of the time. Though things were loosening up, let’s not forget that she came of age in the pre-war era, when good girls did not fool around before marriage at all. Even kissing was considered fairly taboo. As Rosamond pointed out, things weren’t changing that fast–having a baby outside of marriage was still socially ruinous, and would remain so until fairly recently. If you want to read into it, that particular feeling of being overwhelmed by her upbringing and world in general is fairly well illustrated here.

But, there is something good that can come out of it: for the first time ever Edith starts to get the genuine support of her family, as both her parents start acting like they actually care about her.

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0197 normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0198Cora, unsurprisingly, makes the first move, and their new connection is illustrated in the costuming here. Their dresses are similar cuts, with calf-length pleated skirts. The tail of Edith’s headscarf mimics the tie on the front of Cora’s dress, and the colours are complimentary, both soft and soothing.

As Edith starts to become a bit more comfortable with her family, she actually starts to match her surroundings:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0257Her dress matches the wallpaper behind her and compliments the armchair. She’s actually becoming a bit comfortable in this place.

On another note, when she receives the news she’s been dreading, she’s wearing one of her most subdued dinner dresses:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0594It’s a lovely dress, but it’s a far cry from a lot of the sexier confections she’s been sporting this season. Because let’s face it: when your boyfriend vanishes into thin air and you find out you’re going to be left holding the baby (which in some cases led to women being kicked out of their homes by conservative family members), you’re not dressing like a peacock or a sex kitten anymore.

We got a new character this episode: Blake, AKA, Mary’s newest source of conflict/future love interest. And from the get-go, we know that he doesn’t entirely belong the way most of the other male characters do (and remember, Matthew didn’t really ‘belong’ in the early days either).

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0760Evelyn is in a very Robert-esque brown wool suit, again practically blending into his surroundings. Blake’s in a mush sharper-looking, lighter grey, with a subtle pinstripe. It’s a much nattier look than what we’re used to seeing, and he stands out in the scene in a way Evelyn doesn’t. I think we can all expect Mr Napier to continue fading away as Blake takes centre stage here.

Downstairs

Anna’s now struggling to establish some sort of normalcy in her marriage, and so suggests a date night, which very nearly ends in disaster because it’s clear, from a single glance by that snooty maitre d’, that she and Bates don’t belong in the restaurant she’s chosen.

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0551normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0582Their clothes are nice, but serviceable and not at all fancy. This is the sort of clientele the maitre d’ is used to seeing:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0564Compared with that, poor Anna looks just sad. And that drab lavender dress and hat do her no favours. Although they get their dinner, the date’s sort of a disaster.

On a slightly cheerier note, let’s take a look at Jack Ross:

normal_DowntonAbbey-406_0904It’s hard to see in the picture, but like Blake, he’s wearing a striped suit, though in Ross’s case, the stripe is more obvious. His clothes are slightly louder than most of the other men’s clothes on the show. The suit’s a bit shiny, the tie a more obvious pattern. He’s a performer who lives in London, so it’s not surprising he dresses reasonably fashionably, but in a manner that would read to most of the people both upstairs and downstairs at Downton as a bit flash and tacky.

Images: Grande Caps



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